I Used to Blog, Now I’m Just Confused

Dear Friends,
PG-13 (mild profanity)

I’ve made a horrible mistake, and now I’ve gotten myself completely confused. It happened after reading too many articles on: How to Increase Blog Traffic. Yes, it’s true. I have an evil plan. I wish to buy groceries using art/writing income rather than my current alternative – substitute teaching. This past school year, every time I walked into a classroom I thought, “AnnMarie, what the heck are you doing? You’re not a teacher, you’ve got a design degree. Besides chocolate and wine, there’s art in your blood. You should be spending 8 hours a day drawing and writing, not speaking over chattering students.”

This is my confused, hapless, helpless face-

baby gorillaWe dream to make a living doing what we love. It’s a lovely dream that can be and is reality for some. Most of us keep going to see where the ‘going’ takes us. According to the Dear Abby’s of Blogworld, the ‘going’ should include twittering, redditing, stumbling, pintresting… I don’t do any of these ‘ing’ things. Perhaps, I should start… I did add the buttons on the bottom of my blog, though I still don’t know what half of them are.

“Commenting…” Some Abby Advisors suggest only commenting on relevant sites. I don’t think this advice is very gracious. I get the whole business model and practical reasons why, but we’re nothing if we aren’t all ‘relevant.’ We should support each other inside and outside of blogworld, regardless of what our “Abouts” say. So this advice I can’t follow.

“Follow Blog Gurus or Bloggers in the Know” Chris Brogan has been labeled a ‘blog god.’ I thought maybe a blog god is just what I need. I visited his site (Chris Brogan) as advised. He seems a decent sort and a doting dad who happens to have a myriad of speaking, writing, publishing and tech credentials. His site has loads of advice, perhaps when my head is emptied, I’ll brave another visit and try digesting some of his suggestions…

“How often to Post?” Let’s see the next piece of advice (most articles suggest blogging 3-5 x’s per week) is the one that tears me down the middle. I really need advice here. I’ve been posting everyday since February 14, 2014. I’ve started taking off weekends. Though my posts are most often text-light they take a bit of time to put together. I often feel they should run at least 2 days. Then I think – no – I should post everyday. Chris Brogan posts everyday and it has been said, “He never runs out of ideas.” I suppose that’s why he is a blog god. I’m leaning toward every other day…not sure…any suggestions would be humbly appreciated…

“Be yourself.” Who else would I be? There is no one more me than me. Is there anyone you know who is more you than you? I can’t write like anyone else but me. If I had a choice to be someone else, I guess I’d prefer smaller feet so when I buy shoes they’re as cute as their petite counterparts usually displayed.

“Observe your stats.” I stuck paintbrushes in my ears during Algebra and never took them out. I can’t look at graphs to figure out what works and what doesn’t. If I started dissecting charts I most definitely wouldn’t be me. I’d be a person who uses statistics or a person who understands them. I’ll just go on posting what I post and let the pie pieces fall where they may.

“Be controversial.” Why?

There are blogs that sometimes put me to shame. So many blogs, from old and young alike – those who suffer with debilitating illnesses, perhaps are dealing with struggling loved ones or who support noble causes…these blogs do more than just inform. In blogworld their stories, their indomitable hearts are transformative. These people fly in perfect form across the blog’s stratosphere…

There are millions of spectacular blogs, but it’s not the digital formats that are amazing (though some designs are super cool) it’s the human beings behind them – fleshy fingertips transporting their outstanding ideas into sharable formats we can enjoy, learn, discuss… When I chat with the many fascinating people I’ve met along the way, it’s the only time I’m sure of why I’m blogging. There is no greater fulfillment then meeting, sharing or conversing with kindred spirits. Blogworld doesn’t judge, we can all join – any age – any sex – any type – any mindset – any talents – we’re all created equal here.

Let’s see where was I, oh yes, I was figuring out how to buy milk and eggs. I think I’m going to let this post linger a few days while gathering my thoughts. I have made several promises this summer: to run with my son in the mornings, to watch Parks and Recreation with my daughter, to spend quality time with my husband, to read down my summer reading list, to create new art, to unslush my slush pile and to maintain friendships – both old and new,

So I’ll keep blogging onward…and hey, you never know, maybe someday I just might sell some art and writing then go to the grocery store 🙂

Best advice ever: “…Line up alphabetically, according to height…”- Casey Stengel

see you in a few days…


Hitchhikers Are Not Wolves

Dear Friends,
Though I’m done with subbing for the year, I drove my kids to school this morning. They generally ride the bus, unless they present a convincing plea. The delicate daughter has perfected the art of pleading. This morning’s plea began last night. She had the Chemistry Regents today and was concerned about AM cafeteria crowding…. The big son’s eighth-grade graduation was also today.

After the AM school drop off, I merrily made my way back home. I was thinking about what to wear for the “Recognition Ceremony” and was hoping I plucked everything in need of plucking. Not fully concentrating, I had to pull my giant vehicle left to avoid a gent walking roadside. If Nair and tweezers hadn’t been invented, we might be related. He was unkempt in appearance. He wore a cap which concealed his eyes. He was quite thin and his shoulders were slumped, but he held his fist erect. His thumb was up and my head was down. Why? Every time I pass a hitchhiker, I picture Stephen King. Then I think – this person is not a wolf…

wolfI often brag how tough I am. My inner-tomboy would whomp anyone bringing discomfort to my loved ones. Why does the little girl in me say, ‘keep driving….’ when she sees a thumb up. I feel tremendous guilt passing hitchhikers by, but I continue to do so. Maybe if the times were different, maybe. Hitchhikers are not wolves…hitchhikers are not wolves…

Thank you and goodnight. May your dreams be protected by Sweet Lobo of Moon Clan.

(This is a detail of a 5′ x 5′ oil painting on canvas, I think I painted this wolf about 6 years ago)

Linus Who?

Dear Friends,

Partial Wikipedia entry: Linus Carl Pauling (February 28, 1901 – August 19, 1994) was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century. Pauling was one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology.

For his scientific work, Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. In 1962, for his peace activism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This makes him the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes. He is one of only four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize (the others being Marie Curie, John Bardeen, and Frederick Sanger). Pauling is also one of only two people to be awarded Nobel Prizes in different fields, the other being Marie Curie.”

I have officially entered Mr. Pauling into my gray matter. I pray a tiny brain wrinkle forms so this new info keeps. Well my friends, as we dangle upside down contemplating the meaning of our lives and struggle for our minute of fame, notoriety, security, acknowledgment, validation or a simple pat on the back, perhaps the real measure of greatness is finding one’s face in the dictionary margin.

upside down carolineThank you and goodnight. May you dream of humanity winning the Nobel Peace Prize…

(Sketched this portrait today, beneath the beautiful sun and glorious sky. Cheesy pencil on cheesy paper)

Locked Holy Doors and Worn Tombstones

Dear Friends,
This afternoon the giant husband and I did some weekend running around. On the way home, we passed by a lovely old, shingle-sided church.

pres signBy appearances, it hadn’t held a congregation in quite some time. The front door was locked and bolted – a sad sight for a house where one is supposed to find solace and prayer. The building might even be for sale – sadder still…

door lockedAdjoining this historic structure was an old graveyard.

cem side shot Many of the stones, some going back to the 1700’s, had served hard time. Some had sprouted lichens.

lichensStill others surfaces were so worn the names and dates were no longer readable.

brown lichensSome stones rested on one another for support, clinging to the last vestiges of their earthen anchors.

3 overThere was a beautiful tree, its powerful branches watching over and protecting its wards.

tree & stonesIt continues cherishing thousands of secrets and keeping whispers safe.

tree with monuOver the years, I’ve passed by many houses of worship. Their doors locked when services are not underway. I’ve passed by ancient cemeteries too, some a bit neglected.
In times of real need, we alone must bow our heads to dream of hope, pray for peace and hold onto our loved ones as long as possible on this earth…

vwThis post is dedicated to Phyllis Rose who lost her battle with cancer on Friday night. My mom told me of Phyllis’s passing. She was 53. I hadn’t seen Phyllis Rose since I was in my teens. On Friday night, I was worrying about getting the grocery shopping done…life is…
Thank you and goodnight. May your dreams be peaceful and your wishes all come true…

(Sketched the day of this post. This is my handsome nephew, VW. Image inspired by my sister Dolores’s photo)


ALL is Not Divisible by Two

Dear Friends,
Sixteen short years ago, I left my career. It was a surprise even to me. I had planned on working right through the whole mom thing. Why not? I could multitask with the best of them. I had color-coding down to a science. I was not only a list maker, I was a List Master.

corp galGo ahead, throw in that new baby ’cause there was nothing I couldn’t do. Besides, all the women I worked with returned after having babies so would I. I adored my career. I loved walking into my big office, (though I didn’t appreciate the kitchenette location if someone was microwaving broccoli). Creating 4/C textbooks and their ancillary components required a small planet of talented people. My staff was terrific and I had a fabulous administrative assistant. After months of arduous work, I always loved having a tangible product to shove proudly into someone’s hands.

coverinside credit pageI only knew how to do my job one way – ALL. I worked many hours often and always. It was how my parents raised me. You give your ALL so ALL was what I gave. I was Atlas – the weight of the publishing planet upon my back.

ball backEight months after the delicate daughter entered my autobiography, I gave notice. I only knew ALL and ALL was not divisible by two. For many months afterward I color-coded toy baskets, made infinite to-do-lists and wrote about a little alien in my house…

Thank you and goodnight. May your dreams be weightless and pain-free this evening…

(I rendered fashion gal in pen and ink, ball on back girl is pencil, Prentice Hall cover design and interior design by me. Skeletal System in Motion cover illustration by the talented illustrator: Keith Kasnot )

The Middle Kingdom

Dear Friends,
Today, I mistakenly left the Jonathan Tropper book I was reading at home. So for some light lunch reading I grabbed an Ancient Civilization textbook from the room I was subbing in. Since my mind has been on the Far East, I opened to Ancient China. I’d read this chapter before but hadn’t thought beyond the 12-point Times Roman.

Through no fault of their own and perhaps a tad bit of ego, the ancient Chinese believed they were nearly alone in the world. There was no possibility of other powerful civilizations like the Egyptians, Romans or Greeks existing beyond the seas and mountains that cut them off from the rest of the planet. Convinced they were the center of the universe, the Ancient Chinese called themselves the Middle Kingdom. Funny, don’t many of us think this way? If we don’t extend ourselves, we too believe we are the center of our universe.

I like the idea of a Middle Kingdom. I wonder what the characters – cut off from the rest of their world – might look like. I collected some older sketches that could be interesting springboards for, “Monsters in the Middle.” Hey, isn’t that already a show?
This gal might be a protector of a crystal cradle –


This guy could be a water/sand creature-

dolphin bodyAnd of course there would be other creatures dwelling mountainside, possibly deep within caves-

big eyes
Thank you and goodnight. May your dreams be filled with gentle space creatures…

Someone Hit My Car in Answer to a Prayer

Dear Friends,
The delicate daughter has been raised in the art of promptness. Last week, on the way to her Kmart job, we were stopped dead in our tracks. Motorcycles – three abreast – cruised down our country lane. It was an amazing spectacle. Many woman riders were cruising by solo. Almost fifteen minutes elapsed before the last motorcycle flying a, ‘Wounded Warrior Project,’ banner cruised by. They must’ve raised quite a bit for our veterans.

motorcycleI too, once owned a motorcycle. It was really cute, an all black Kawasaki 250 (if memory serves). I imagined cruising down the highway as an uber-cool, independent babe astride her slick motor-horse-

bike babeI have always been captivated my Marlon Brando and his suave biker image. If Marlon and James Dean’s genetics had ever mixed their offspring would have been into motocross-

marlo jamesBack to the little Kawasaki. I kept it at a good friend’s car shop. He let me practice in the shop parking lot after hours. I could make left turns with no effort. Righthand turns were a problem. I couldn’t turn right without dropping the bike. I felt off-balance and blamed it on my left-handedness. One day I said a little prayer, “Dear God, I don’t know if I should keep the bike. I can’t seem to do the ‘right’ thing. Please send me a sign. I’ll keep practicing until I hear back from you,” AnnMarie.

The very afternoon I uttered this prayer, I was driving my sporty, charcoal-grey metallic, Nissan 240SX to my friend’s shop to practice riding my motorcycle. A man in a Ferrari-owned pickup truck was making an illegal u-turn. I was coming around a blind corner doing 65 in my little sports car. We smashed. My car slid across the opposite lane of traffic. Since God sent the sign, he pushed my car fast enough so it avoided oncoming traffic. Though I was spared, the right side of my car was not. The gentleman in the truck was fine too, with only a small cut on his forehead. Well, I learned from that day to be careful of what I prayed for. I sold the motorcycle and had my car redone.

For these past 2 weeks, I’ve been driving by a sleek black motorcycle with a For Sale sign on it. I have that old feeling. I’d like to give motorcycles another try. Tonight when the giant husband opened his mail, this was in it –

motorcyle lawyerI’ll take it as a sign…

Thank you and goodnight. May you ride side-by-side with Marlon and James toward a gorgeous sunset and wakeup to the glorious sun…

(motorcycle silo with funky front wheel rendered in marker, biker chick done in watercolor and pencil, Marlon/James combo created with colored pencil and marker)

The Flesh Failures

Dear Friends,
Whenever I sub I think back to my years as a young student. There was always a class clown and perhaps another child or two who were regular troublemakers. The rare days when a substitute entered the classroom, we might not work as hard, but we didn’t act out. We listened without requiring numerous ultimatums to do what we knew was right (at least in school). Today, something is different. 

I’ve been thinking about Hair, and the generation this musical represented. The Sixties was a time of ‘fighting’ for the concept of freedom and what that freedom meant individually. In this generation there were hippies, beatniks, flower children, nudists, love ins…right or wrong this generation was authentic.

Today’s children see and hear adult fare and emulate what they don’t understand. They latch onto wearing Bob Marley shirts without knowing what the man and his music represented, etc.. Often times when I sub, I remind students that education is the first thing taken away when others want control of their precious freedom. So, they might want to pay attention once in a while…


(lyrics: The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In)
We starve-look
At one another
Short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation
Of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes

Inside something there is a rush of
Who knows what stands in front of
Our lives
I fashion my future on films in space
Tells me secretly

Let the sunshine
Let the sunshine in…

Thank you and goodnight. May you dream dreams of bright futures…

(I rendered the Eagle in Prisma pencil on school-grade construction paper)


They Call Me, The Tiger Man

Dear Friends,
A few years back the big son and I were on a jogging/walking kick. We’d leash up Rocky and drive to a place where a perfect 2 mile loop waited. One morning on our walk, the big son and I noticed an older gentleman sitting on a lawn chair in front of his house. He commented on what a handsome pup Rocky was, then he told us he had baby cats. The way he said it was odd. He added, “if you wait just a minute, I just picked up some pictures.” He walked to his nearby car and grabbed an envelope. He took a batch of photos out and showed us his baby cats. This was his newest baby-

bottle feedHe also had another baby-

tiger petAnd here is a gorgeous picture of his two baby cats romping about-

rearing tigersHe also had other pets-

tailThe baby cat was exceptionally brave for battling his vicious attack dog-

tiger and dog playIn this next one, he asked his baby cat to smile for the camera-

tiger roarAnd here is an acrylic of mine in homage to these magnificent creatures. If memory serves, I used images from the WWF as reference. The Tiger Man was a kind and fascinating fellow. He gave his duplicate images to me after I told him I love creating tiger images.

my paintingAnd lastly, this is a Prisma pencil tiger. I gave the Tiger Man, a copy of my baby cat –

pencil tigerI hope these magnificent creatures make it. Poachers have done a number on tiger populations throughout the planet. Slaughtered, because some want what they cannot have. Let’s hope these spectacular baby cats survive.

I wish I remembered the Tiger Man’s real name. My memory often lets me down. Perhaps the big son and I will see him again this summer when we start up our jogging program.

Thank you and goodnight. May a gorgeous tiger sleep by your side and protect your dreams.

All Things Great and Small

Dear Friends,
Though I spent my younger years attending Catholic School, I don’t consider myself religious. I’d call myself spiritual at best. This particular post includes text from Cecil Alexander’s, Hymns for Little Children. James Herriot used the first stanza from Ms. Alexander’s hymn, “All Things…” to title his fabulous series. Mr. Herriot’s three books are based on his 1930’s veterinarian practice in Yorkshire, England. These humorous, yet poignant books, are worth the time – if you have it to give.

All things bright and beautiful,

flowers close
flowersAll things great and small,

cabin kidsgreen monstermonster pants

All things wise and wonderful,

on couchThe Lord God made them all.

istaalligatorThank you and goodnight. May your dreams abound with earth’s wondrous creatures.

(The flowers are done with watercolors. I rendered the monster illustrations in Prisma pencil and I once had an iguana named Ista who I called friend. The croc is named Barney. Barney suffered tremendous depression when he learned a purple dinosaur swiped his name. Barney cried so many crocodile tears he rusted. )